Instagram For Business: Where To Start

Chris CrumSocial Media

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Instagram is about four and a half years old now, and has over 300 million users, but a lot of businesses are still just trying to get started with a presence on the visual social network. Some have been nailing it for a long while now, but for a lot of smaller businesses, it's just another thing to keep up with, and many no doubt wonder just where they should start.

Is Instagram part of your marketing plan? Does it directly contribute to conversions for your business? Let us know in the comments.

We had a conversation with Gary Jordan of TheInstagramExpert.com, and he shared his thoughts on how businesses should approach getting started with the platform.

Jordan says the best thing businesses can do when they're getting started on Instagram is to set themselves up for success from the very beginning by making an easy-to-read username with very few underscores,periods, or numbers (unless they're absolutely necessary) as well as including an easily identifiable profile picture or logo. It should be easily read/seen on a small cell phone screen. You should have an appealing/intriguing bio, and add the right URL to the best landing page on your site for conversions, he says.

"If you don't get these essentials right from the beginning, it will be a lot harder for you to get Instagram followers, no matter how much uploading you do," says Jordan.

According to Jordan, the best way to grow followers for a business just starting on on Instagram differs slightly from one that already has an established fan base. For those starting out, he says, "One of the best ways to grow your Instagram follower count is by implementing an entertaining content strategy that is more than just pictures of your products. People want to feel the personality of your brand. Portray a lifestyle, and people who are interested in it will follow."

"No matter what stigma you have against it or advice that you have heard, one of the fastest ways for a new brand/business to grow a following on Instagram, is to follow others and follow your current followers back," he adds. "Instagram is one of the best social media platforms for this strategy because they allow you to follow up to 7500 people."

Instagram added a new discovery feature in November, making it easier to find people to follow. This hasn't been Instgram's strong suit in the past, so it's a welcome addition.

"In the beginning, consistency is going to be key," Jordan says. "Posting once a week is not going to help you to gain loyal followers. Ideally you would want to post something to your Instagram account at least twice a day, but once a day will suffice if you do the other things above."

Asked about best practices for mentioning, hashtags, liking, and commenting, Jordan says utilizing these things effectively is one of the most important things in Instagram marketing.

"You have to foster a conversation between your brand/business and your followers/customers," Jordan says. "The closer they feel to the business, the more likely they are to become a superfan. This can be done relatively easy on Instagram by just liking & commenting on the content of other users, and re-posting some of your favorite photos of theirs on your timeline and shouting them out."

"Another good way to keep your followers engaged is to have them submit their best photos to you, that are related to your business or what it offers, for a chance for them to be featured on your page," he adds. "The best way to keep all submissions in order is by utilizing a specific hashtag that your followers can use to submit."

Video has become very popular on Instgram since it was launched about a year and a half ago. Don't forget that as of earlier this month, videos now loop continuously.

Jordan says videos are one of his favorite things to use on Instagram because most competitors don't use them to their full potential yet.

"If used right, they can be like mini 15 second commercials for your business/brand every time you post," he says. "I would say the best way to get started posting videos on Instagram is by re-posting other videos that are related to your business that you believe your followers may like. After a while you can venture into making your own videos of your business, products, services. Make them personable and tell a brand story and people will watch and enjoy. Always remember to tag them with the appropriate hashtags."

We asked Jordaon what the most common mistake is that he sees businesses making on Instagram. His answer is a pretty easy one to correct. It's simply not getting started or signing up and forgetting about it.

"If you want it to work and bring you in business, you have to be willing to put in at least 30 minutes to an hour a day to grow and maintain your following. But think about it, if you can gain just 50 followers a day, that's 18,250 in one year. That can be a game changer for a lot of businesses."

Asked about brands that are doing it right, he says, "There's a lot of brands out there killing it right now but some of my favorites are: @SnoopDogg, @NBA, @GoPro, @Starbucks, and @CousinCoutoure. I like them because they all post consistent, relevant content and make it fun and interesting for their followers."

I always thought Bolthouse Farms did a great job using Instagram to inspire product sales. They've run campaigns that encourage users to take a picture of their product, and upload it to Instgram with the right hashtag in order to get a significant discount. More on that here.

Last year, we spoke with Curalate CEO Apu Gupta about how brands should be using visual social media, including Instagram.

“Two things work particularly well with Instagram,” he said at the time. “From the perspective of a brand, Instagram offers an opportunity to bring the consumer into the brand’s world in a very human and authentic way. It’s about artistry and the celebration of how lives are enhanced by being connected to the brand. The other thing we see work really well with Instagram is taking the photos that fans have generated and making those photos shoppable. Curalate has worked with numerous brands including Rebecca Minkoff and Urban Outfitters to do just this, and the results have been astounding.”

In the summer, we looked at data from Shareablee finding that Instagram brand posts were getting three times the engagement of Facebook posts. Just two months ago, SocialBakers shared data showing that Instgram is completely blowing Twitter away in engagement among the most engaging brand profiles.

In other words, Instagram is a pretty great social network to participate in if you're looking for followers that will actually interact with your brand.

Have you had success with Instagram? What are some ways you've used it for business? Please discuss.

Images via Instagram, SocialBakers

Chris Crum

Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.